WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - The White House hopes that Julie Su’s role in brokering a settlement between West Coast dockworkers' and shippers' interests will give the Senate a new push to approve her nomination as Labor Secretary.
Su flew out to San Francisco in order to seal the tentative deal after a long dispute which had caused sporadic interruptions at some of America's biggest ports. Su, who had been appointed deputy labor secretary in February when Joe Biden was nominated for the Cabinet position, was asked by Biden to join the negotiations in order to avoid potential work stops as the bargaining sessions became tense.
Biden thanked Su for her work as acting director of the department, saying he relied on Su's 'deep knowledge and judgment' in moving the negotiations forward.
Biden stated that the deal would have a positive impact on international trade. She's proven to be a leader, and I believe she should get confirmed.
Su was credited with a major role by the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the finalization of the deal. Su was praised by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for "staying committed to process and helping both sides reach this agreement."
White House officials are hoping that her participation will convince Senate holdouts, who have questioned her negotiation skills and her anti-business stance.
Su's nomination was approved by a Senate committee in April. However, since no Republicans have publicly endorsed her, her supporters and the Biden administration are scrambling to secure 50 Democratic votes to confirm her. Several moderate Democrats have been refusing to declare whether they will vote for Su.
There is a deep doubt that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will vote "yes," especially considering that he rejected this week three Biden nominees who were endorsed by other Democrats, but opposed uniformly by GOP senators. Sen. Kyrsten Sinesma, an Arizona Independent, is a key ally for business groups. Some Su supporters were concerned that she would reject a nominee who was perceived as being too close to the unions.
Su's leadership of California's Labor Department has been criticized by business groups.
She supported a law, now overturned, that would have required ride-hailing and delivery apps such as Uber, Lyft and trucking companies to treat their employees as employees. This included providing paid sick leaves and unemployment insurance for example, and not as independent contractors.
Su is also responsible for the problems that occurred at the agency when the pandemic hit, and a record number of people applied for unemployment benefits. They faced long waiting times for their claims, while the state paid billions in fraudulent claims.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said that he is still working to gain the support of two or three additional Democrats.
Durbin stated that "they've probably said no, but they haven't said never." "We're now talking to them."
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont. ), who hasn't stated where he stands on the issue, said that he is 'taking feedback from people'. He also expressed his frustration at the current situation. Tester stated, "I wish there was a vote to allow people to vote and move forward." "Up or down"
Su's installation is a top priority for the unions who are Biden allies, and for Asian American advocacy organizations that were miffed at the fact that this was the first administration in 20 years without an Asian American. Su, the daughter of Chinese immigrants has talked about how her mother immigrated to the United States in a cargo ship because she couldn't afford a ticket for a passenger.
White House officials are holding daily strategy meetings to determine how best to get her confirmed. Jeff Zients, the chief of staff, and Louisa Terrell (director of legislative affairs) speak with Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y. on a regular basis about this issue. Marty Walsh was Biden's former labor secretary and has lobbied senators in private for Su.
Republicans work to foment opposition. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) wrote Su about the dockworkers' negotiations this week before a deal had been announced. He claimed that Su did not have a track record in working with both labor and management to resolve labor disputes.
Both sides must ratify the tentative agreement that would affect 22,000 dockworkers in 29 ports along West Coast. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Dockworkers are working without a contract.
Su stated in a press release that the pact proved 'once more that collective bargaining, though it can be difficult, works'